I love Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp. I’m not just saying this because on a recent day,when I had the chance to visit camp, I was declared the winner of Four Corners, a fantastic running-around game that took place on the stage of the Deer Valley Amphitheater. (Seriously, the very same stage that has featured the likes of Grace Potter, Kristin Chenoweth, and countless other superstars serves as a play area for the campers!). So, yeah, I achieved rock-star status, in the eyes of a bunch of four-and-five year olds, on that very stage. And, really, I can’t think of a group of people better qualified to confer such status.
There’s a special magic to Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp. I can say this, with authority, because it was the camp that turned my kids on to the idea of summer camp, in general, the one that planted the seeds for all the cool camps they have attended both in town and in the mountains, for the last eleven summers. The day I visited was rainy and cool—yet the dedicated staff turned every possible corner of the Snow Park Lodge area into a fun-filled playground.
There was some cool game called Shark Attack being played by a group of older kids in the locker room. You can’t really appreciate how big the room is, until you see it used by 20 kids, instead of a hundred or more skiers. (Oh, so that’s why it never feels crowded: it’s huge!)
Prior to that, a group of over 20 kids and five staffers sat in a circle in one of the home-base camp rooms, sharing their names and favorite animals. For the kids, it was a chance to come up with the most unusual choices they could think of—and see if the counselors could top it. When one child said her favorite was the hammerhead shark, Will, a counselor, said, “Oh, that was mine!” and then proceeded to tell the circle that his second favorite animal is a platypus. Cue the huge laugh from the peanut gallery. As the game went on, and chatter started to creep in, the counselors had the opportunity to remind everyone about taking turns listening and sharing, it was the kind of learning-through-play that really works, and also helps keep order in a larger group of kids.
“This has been our busiest season, ever,” says Kelly Witter, Summer Camp Supervisor for the 5-6 and 7-12 year-old campers. “People like that we change it up every day. The parents like that we are electronics-free, and that their kids are always trying new things.”
Another bonus? “We are well under the state’s ratio for staff,” she says. “With our 5-6 year-olds, we have 6:1, and with our 7-12, it’s 8:1. And our staff is engaged all the time with the kids.
The low ratios allow for plenty of exploration in the greater Park City community. “We have our own vans, so we can pick up and take the kids to the Utah Olympic Park museum on a rainy day—they’re out there, having fun, and moving around and they don’t even realize they are learning something, too!”
The camp staff works hard to make the camp feel like a community. “The kids who are here for ski school in the winter, and camp in the summer, they really feel part of something,” Kelly says. “And we work to make it so they are aware of the larger community, too.”
For instance, each summer, campers create artwork that is displayed in a show throughout the Children’s Center lobby and the Snow Park Lodge hallways. The art is sold with the proceeds going to a local non-profit. “This year, we are donating the proceeds to Recycle Utah’s glass recycling program,” says Deer Valley Resort’s Children’s Programs Manager, Mya Frantti.
Which may explain why I spied Kelly spraying a multicolored picnic table, at one point. “The kids and I colored this with chalk, for the art show,” she explained. “So now I’m sealing it—which, it turns out, can only be done with hair spray!”
See? Even the adults learn things at camp, in the name of having fun.